Shellfish remains are common in coastal and estuarine archaeological sites, but dating these samples require a correction for the “reservoir effect” a process whereby "old carbon" is recycled and incorporated into marine life especially shellfish inflating their actual age in some cases several centuries.In recognition of this problem archaeologists have developed regional reservoir correction rates based on ocean bottom topography, water temperature, coastline shape and paired samples of terrestrial and marine objects found together in an archaeological feature such as a hearth.
The Mayan calendar used 3114 BC as their reference.
More recently is the radiocarbon date of 1950 AD or before present, BP.
As long as there is organic material present, radiocarbon dating is a universal dating technique that can be applied anywhere in the world.
It is good for dating for the last 50,000 years to about 400 years ago and can create chronologies for areas that previously lacked calendars.
In a stratigraphical context objects closer to the surface are more recent in time relative to items deeper in the ground.
Although relative dating can work well in certain areas, several problems arise.
Long tree-ring sequences have been developed throughout the world and can be used to check and calibrate radiocarbon dates.
An extensive tree-ring sequence from the present to 6700 BC was developed in Arizona using California bristlecone pine (), some of which are 4900 years old, making them the oldest living things on earth.
The extra neutrons in Carbon-14’s case make it radioactive (thus the term, radiocarbon).
Radiocarbon is produced in the upper atmosphere after Nitrogen-14 isotopes have been impacted by cosmic radiation.
Rodents, for example, can create havoc in a site by moving items from one context to another.